The Art of Re­cov­ery

Artists who bat­tled drugs dis­play work at com­mu­nity col­lege

The Community Connection - - FRONT PAGE - By Mar­ian Den­nis mden­nis@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Mar­i­anDen­nis1 on Twit­ter

POTTSTOWN » If you walked into Mont­gomery County Com­mu­nity Col­lege’s West Cam­pus lately, you may have no­ticed some un­usual decor.

Hang­ing from the ceil­ing of the col­lege’s North Hall build­ing, 16 E. High St., are thou­sands of glas­sine bag­gies that serve as a chan­de­lier of sorts and as the cen­ter­piece for the col­lege’s tem­po­rary art ex­hibit. The in­stall­ment is called “4642,” in­tended to rep­re­sent the num­ber of peo­ple who lost their lives to opi­oid or heroin ad­dic­tion in Penn­syl­va­nia in 2016.

The art in­stall­ment is part of a larger ex­hi­bi­tion called The Art of Re­cov­ery, which fea­tures about 50 cre­ations that were done by former pris­on­ers and in­di­vid­u­als in re­cov­ery from drug ad­dic­tion as­so­ci­ated with the Brush with the Law Pro­gram. The non-profit arts pro­gram aims to bring aware­ness and un­der­stand­ing of peo­ple who ex­pe­ri­ence the ef­fects of ad­dic­tion and the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.

“Brush with the Law started as a prison art or­ga­ni­za­tion. They would do art projects in Mont­gomery County Cor­rec­tional Fa­cil­ity. The or­ga­nizer is a Mont­gomery County alumna. It now works out­side the prison walls all over the county and within the re­gion with peo­ple in ad­dic­tion re­cov­ery and re-en­try,” said Pa­trick Rodgers, the gallery direc­tor.

As guests walk through the ex­hibit, they come across walls of art work of all dif­fer­ent kinds. While some artists chose to ex­press them­selves through acrylic paints, oth­ers opted for col­lage work. At the end of one of the gallery walls is a board that dis­plays hand writ­ten notes from those who have ei­ther strug­gled from ad­dic­tion or known some­one who has. The notes of­fer small glimpses of how ad­dic­tion has made them feel or how it has af­fected their lives.

“We’re here to cel­e­brate the works of peo­ple who have been strug­gling with ad­dic­tion and in­car­cer­a­tion with re­cidi­vism,“said Maria Ma­neos, founder and di­rec-

tor of Brush with the Law. “We’re try­ing to show their in­ner strug­gles and how per­haps art can help bring out in them what they may not even know they strug­gle with.”

Vis­i­tors took time to look at the art­work and read some of the per­sonal sto­ries that were posted along­side of them. For many, the ex­hibit was an eye open­ing ex­pe­ri­ence that left a last­ing im­pres­sion.

“There’s one pic­ture that’s a black field with a woman’s face in the mid­dle with what looked like stripes,” ex­plained Rodgers. “And when I first saw it I thought, ‘That’s a re­ally cool col­lage.’ But what I didn’t re­al­ize was that the face was a col­lage and that the stripes that look like bars are torn up prison trash bags. So here is an artist who is in jail and she came up with this dark, sim­ple, kind of haunt­ing image just with stuff that she had in her trash can. And there’s just this des­per­ate art mak­ing in this piece that I just feel drawn to ev­ery time I see it.”

The Fine Arts Gallery at Mont­gomery County Com­mu­nity Col­lege is open Mon­day through Thurs­day from 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Fri­day from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The gallery is closed on Satur­days and Sun­days.

The ex­hi­bi­tion be­gan on Aug. 30 and will stay on dis­play un­til Oct. 28.

“I hope they see the re­al­ity that’s out there. That peo­ple are strug­gling with this and it’s hap­pen­ing. It’s all kinds of peo­ple. It’s not just the ones that we place judge­ment in, as­sum­ing who it is. These are fam­ily and friends,” said Ma­neos.

MAR­IAN DEN­NIS — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

A chan­de­lier of glas­sine bag­gies filled with crys­tals served as the cen­ter­piece for the Art of Re­cov­ery ex­hibit at Mont­gomery County Com­mu­nity Col­lege.

MAR­IAN DEN­NIS — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

All kinds of art were dis­played Wed­nes­day dur­ing a re­cep­tion for the Art of Re­cov­ery ex­hibit at Mont­gomery County Com­mu­nity Col­lege. The gallery fea­tured art by in­di­vid­u­als in re­cov­ery and in­cluded works such as paint­ings, col­lages and a cas­cad­ing “chan­de­lier” made of glas­sine bag­gies and crys­tals rep­re­sent­ing opi­oid deaths in Penn­syl­va­nia in 2016.

MAR­IAN DEN­NIS — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Works of art fea­tured at the Art of Re­cov­ery ex­hi­bi­tion at Mont­gomery County Com­mu­nity Col­lege Wed­nes­day gave guests a glimpse into the lives and feel­ings of those strug­gling with ad­dic­tion.

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